Helm (1993) suggests the following guidelines to ensure collaboration between schools and the community when planning an early childhood program:
"HOW TO MAKE COLLABORATION HAPPEN IN YOUR COMMUNITY:
Lessons from the planning process for the Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center and Peoria Public Schools.
1. One agency or organization must take the lead. Sharon Kagan in United We Stand [New York: Teachers College Press, 1991] suggests that a public school can serve as the hub for early childhood program collaboration. As children exit early childhood programs and enter kindergarten, the schools reap the benefits or pay the price for the quality of early childhood programs. In Peoria, the school district served as the hub by including other agencies in the design and decision-making process and eventually inviting them to provide programming at the center. The promise of participation in the staff development component by staff from other programs cemented the collaboration relationship.
2. Support must come from the top. The school board understood and accepted the need for collaboration and supported and encouraged the process. The superintendent committed time and effort by selecting and chairing the Task Force. His presence assisted in obtaining cooperation and participation from agencies. In cases where there were things that needed to be worked out, the superintendent communicated directly and effectively with the leaders of other agencies. His active participation in the process assured that his involvement in working out problems was effective, because he had accurate knowledge and perceptions of the concerns. Although efforts at the grass roots level can initiate a collaboration, lack of commitment and involvement in the collaboration project by the decision-makers for an institution will eventually result in the collaboration effort failing.
3. There needs to be a focus, a driving goal that motivates, inspires, and provides a timeline. Pulling representative programs together into an early childhood center can provide an exciting and motivating force for a community. Discussions of problems and philosophies naturally flowed from the task of designing the school. A new building, however, is not necessary. Developing an early childhood center in an existing school or designing an early childhood unit within a building can provide an impetus and a timeline for doing the hard work that collaboration requires.
4. Goals that are set must benefit everyone. Even though the focus of the collaboration was the design of the center, other coordination and cooperation opportunities were identified during the communication process. One goal that was defined and achieved by the Task Force to the benefit of all programs was the development of a unified screening and recruitment process.
5. Make a commitment to work things out. Attitude is very important. With a forward-looking attitude, problems are seen as temporary roadblocks. The group searches for a bridge over or a new path around the roadblock. If the attitude is negative or tentative--a 'wait and see what develops before we commit' attitude--then every problem is seen as an indicator that the collaboration is not working.
6. Call meetings regularly, but more important, meet immediately when there are questions or concerns. Learn to drop everything and work out problems. Be honest about feelings and concerns. Problems and concerns that are ignored will not go away but will eventually kill a collaboration effort.
7. Agree to disagree. Recognize that each program will need to maintain its own sense of identity and philosophy. The goal is not to have everyone agree on all issues or to eliminate diversity in early childhood programs. The goal is to improve the services to children and families." (p. 59)